The Devil and Tom Walker

Tom Walker Character Analysis

A “meagre miserly fellow,” Tom Walker is first and foremost outrageously, self-destructively greedy. He despises his miserly, abusive wife and has nothing to live for but the satisfaction of his desire for owning things. One evening, he meets the devil Old Scratch in a Massachusetts swamp, who offers Tom the long-dead Captain Kidd’s long-buried treasure in exchange for Tom’s immortal soul. After some indecision and his wife’s death at the hands of Old Scratch—a fate which foreshadows her husband’s own—Tom at last resolves, Faust-like, to seal the deal: so, in exchange for pirate treasure, he sells his soul, and, in accordance with the devil’s conditions, also becomes an exploitative usurer, or moneylender, in Boston. As the years pass, Tom becomes rich and respected, but he also begins to regret having paid for his worldly success with an eternity among hellfire and brimstone. To protect himself, he becomes zealously and hypocritically religious and always carries a bible with him. But the devil gets his due nevertheless: while Tom is predatorily foreclosing the land jobber’s mortgage one morning, Old Scratch knocks at Tom’s door and whisks him onto a black horse, which gallops away back to the swamp and Tom’s damnation.

Tom Walker Quotes in The Devil and Tom Walker

The The Devil and Tom Walker quotes below are all either spoken by Tom Walker or refer to Tom Walker. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Greed Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dover Publications edition of The Devil and Tom Walker published in 2008.
“The Devil and Tom Walker” Quotes

There lived near this place a meagre miserly fellow of the name of Tom Walker. He had a wife as miserly as himself… They lived in a forlorn-looking house, that stood alone and had an air of starvation.

Related Characters: Tom Walker, Tom Walker’s Wife
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

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One day that Tom Walker had been to a distant part of the neighborhood, he took what he considered a short cut homewards through the swamp. Like most short cuts, it was an ill-chosen route… It was full of pits and quagmires, partly covered with weeds and mosses, where the green surface often betrayed the traveller into a gulf of black, smothering mud…

Related Characters: Tom Walker
Related Symbols: Old Scratch’s Swamp
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

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As he turned up the soil unconsciously, his staff struck against something hard. He raked it out of the vegetable mould, and lo! a cloven skull, with an Indian tomahawk buried deep in it, lay before him. The rust on the weapon showed the time that had elapsed since this death-blow had been given. It was a dreary memento of the fierce struggle that had taken place in this last foothold of the Indian warriors.

Related Characters: Tom Walker
Related Symbols: Old Scratch’s Swamp
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

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Tom looked in the direction that the stranger pointed, and beheld one of the great trees, fair and flourishing without, but rotten at the core, and saw that it had been nearly hewn through, so that the first high wind was likely to blow it down. On the bark of the tree was scored the name of Deacon Peabody, an eminent man, who had waxed wealthy by driving shrewd bargains with the Indians.
Related Characters: Tom Walker, Old Scratch, Deacon Peabody
Related Symbols: Old Scratch’s Swamp
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

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One would think that to meet with such a singular personage [as Old Scratch], in this wild, lonely place, would have shaken any man’s nerves; but Tom was a hard-minded fellow, not easily daunted, and he had lived so long with a termagant wife, that he did not even fear the devil.

Related Characters: Tom Walker, Old Scratch, Tom Walker’s Wife
Related Symbols: Old Scratch’s Swamp
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

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Tom consoled himself for the loss of his property, with the loss of his wife, for he was a man of fortitude. He even felt something like gratitude towards the black woodman, who, he considered, had done him a kindness.

Related Characters: Tom Walker, Tom Walker’s Wife
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

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He [Old Scratch] proposed, therefore, that Tom should employ it [the pirate treasure] in the black traffic; that is to say, that he should fit out a slave-ship. This, however, Tom resolutely refused: he was bad enough in all conscience; but the devil himself could not tempt him to turn slave-trader.

Related Characters: Tom Walker, Old Scratch
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

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He [Tom Walker] built himself, as usual, a vast house, out of ostentation; but left the greater part of it unfinished and unfurnished, out of parsimony. He even set up a carriage in the fullness of his vainglory, though he nearly starved the horses which drew it; and as the ungreased wheels groaned and screeched on the axle-trees, you would have thought you heard the souls of the poor debtors he was squeezing.

Related Characters: Tom Walker
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

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As Tom waxed old, however, he grew thoughtful. Having secured the good things of this world, he began to feel anxious about those of the next. He thought with regret on the bargain he had made with his black friend, and set his wits to work to cheat him out of the conditions. He became, therefore, all of a sudden, a violent churchgoer. He prayed loudly and strenuously as if heaven were to be taken by force of lungs.

Related Characters: Tom Walker
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

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He [Tom Walker] had also a great folio Bible on his counting-house desk, and would frequently be found reading it when people called on business; on such occasions he would lay his green spectacles in the book, to mark the place, while he turned round to drive some usurious bargain.

Related Characters: Tom Walker
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

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Just then there were three loud knocks at the street door. He [Tom Walker] stepped out to see who was there. A black man was holding a black horse which neighed and stamped with impatience.
“Tom, you're come for,” said the black fellow, gruffly. Tom shrank back, but too late. He had left his little Bible at the bottom of his coat-pocket, and his big Bible on the desk buried under the mortgage he was about to foreclose: never was sinner taken more unawares.

Related Characters: Old Scratch (speaker), Tom Walker
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

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Trustees were appointed to take charge of Tom's effects. There was nothing, however, to administer upon. On searching his coffers, all his bonds and mortgages were found reduced to cinders. In place of gold and silver, his iron chest was filled with chips and shavings; two skeletons lay in his stable instead of his half starved horses, and the very next day his great house took fire and was burnt to the ground.

Related Characters: Tom Walker
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

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Such was the end of Tom Walker and his ill-gotten wealth. Let all griping money-brokers lay this story to heart. The truth of it is not to be doubted.

Related Characters: Tom Walker
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:

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Tom Walker Character Timeline in The Devil and Tom Walker

The timeline below shows where the character Tom Walker appears in The Devil and Tom Walker. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
“The Devil and Tom Walker”
Greed Theme Icon
...starvation about it and a starving horse in the field nearby, a poor miser named Tom Walker, who is married to a an ill-tempered, fierce, loud, strong wife as miserly as... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
One day Tom Walker is taking an ill-conceived shortcut home through the nearby swamp; it is gloomy with... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
At length, late in the dusk of the evening, Tom arrives at a piece of firm ground in which slump the overgrown ruins of an... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
Tom lies on the trunk of a fallen hemlock for some time, listening to the cry... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Tom lifts his eyes and beholds a great black man (later identified as Old Scratch), seated... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The black man (later identified as Old Scratch) demands to know what Tom is doing on his grounds; Tom retorts that the swamp belongs not to the black... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Tom asks the black man what right he has to burn Deacon Peabody’s timber. “‘Prior claim,’”... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
Tom and Old Scratch have a long and serious conversation together as the former makes his... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Tom arrives home to find a black, irremovable fingerprint burnt into his forehead. His wife’s first... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Tom shares with his wife all that transpired in the swamp, and mention of Kidd’s hidden... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
At the close of one’s summer day, then, Tom’s wife fearlessly treks to the ruined Indian fort herself. She is gone many hours, and... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
Nobody knows what fate actually befell Tom’s wife, but many theories circulate: some say she got lost in the mazy swamp and... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
The most current and probable story, however, holds that Tom went out searching for his wife in the swamp, when owls and bats were on... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Tom consoles himself for the loss of his property with the loss of his wife, feeling... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
At first, Old Scratch pretends to be indifferent to Tom’s offers for the buried treasure, but soon enough the two begin haggling about the conditions... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
So instead Old Scratch proposes that Tom Walker become a usurer (someone who lends money and charges interest, especially at a high... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
A few days pass. Tom is sitting in his counting shop in Boston, with a reputation for lending money already.... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
As such, people are lining up to get a loan from Tom Walker, who acts like “a friend in need” indeed by lending at high interest rates... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The older Tom grows, however, the more thoughtful he becomes, especially about the afterlife. He at last regrets... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
Some people think Tom Walker went a little crazy in his old age. After all, he did have his... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
That legend goes like this. One hot afternoon in summer, Tom is sitting up in his counting house, wearing his morning gown; he is foreclosing a... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
Wealth, Religion, and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The land jobber then reminds Tom that he has already made a great deal of money in interest off of him.... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
Tom Walker never returns to foreclose the mortgage. A man who lives on the boarder of... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Trustees are appointed to administer to Tom’s estate, but all his bonds and mortgages are found reduced to cinders, and all his... (full context)
Greed Theme Icon
Usury Theme Icon
Storytelling as Moral Instruction Theme Icon
Such is the end of Tom Walker and his immorally acquired wealth. All money brokers, the narrator says, should heed this... (full context)